Journalist Lina Trunina of Sovsport.ru talked to Nikita Kucherov about his performance at the All-Star Game. If you use this translated text in any way, please credit Lina Trunina of Sovsport.ru and Igor Nikonov (@nikonov_igor) of Raw Charge.
Lina Trunina: How does it feel when you’re on the ice and crowd’s chanting “KUUUCH”?
Nikita Kucherov: It’s a pleasure to play for your fans with such big support. They give me a lot of respect. I’m happy to represent the Tampa Bay Lightning and I believe that All-Star Game was at the highest level.
Trunina: You are the first who scored a hat-trick since the new format of the All-Star games was introduced.
Kucherov: I didn’t even think about it. I just scored. The main thing is to score during the season!
Trunina: But we also know that you became the second Russian who scored a hat-trick during an All-Star game. Do you know who did it first?
Kucherov: Sergei Fedorov?
Trunina: No, it was Pavel Bure in 2000.
Kucherov: Well, that’s great. How did I score so many goals? When there are so many professionals on your team, you just gave them the puck and they pass it back to you. All you need to do is to score on the empty net, just like it happened in our combination with Jack Eichel. It’s great to be with these guys in the same locker room, on the same…. (Kucherov forgot Russian word for “bench”)
Trunina: On the same bench?
Kucherov: That’s it. It was fun for all of us.
Trunina: Did you try to score the way you scored against Braden Holtby in the regular season?
Kucherov: I tried it against the Penguins at the start of the season, but the puck went off the hook and I didn’t score.
Trunina: That goal was a highlight of the All-Star Game. What would you feel if you accidentally saw your goal in a couple of years somewhere?
Kucherov: I don’t even know. It’s just a goal. Maybe for journalists and fans it’s a reason to discuss things. But for me it’s just a beautiful goal. Actually, I’m usually shooting from the right wing. As I received the puck, I immediately thought about it. I was moving forward and could shoot from the backhand. But I decided to try it. It’s an All-Star game, everything is for the fans. If you score – great. If not - that’s ok.
Trunina: Do you like 3-on-3 format in the All-Star game?
Kucherov: Sure. More space, more goals. Skilled guys can show their talent. Fans are enjoying this hockey and players are enjoying scoring goals, as well.
Trunina: This was your second All-Star game. How is it different from the first one?
Kucherov: I wouldn’t say that I was very nervous in the first game. That’s not true. But I know more guys now. The same faces from the last year. I’m relaxed, enjoying this event and talking to other guys. We came here to have some fun and bring joy to the fans. It doesn’t happen every day, when the best players from the NHL come to the Tampa.
Trunina: Who you were happy to see the most?
Kucherov: Alex Ovechkin, my Russian friend. I was happy to see him. Actually, the more Russian guys are here, the better. Let everyone know that there are great hockey schools in Russia. Let our parents and coaches be proud of us. We’re playing here because of them.
Trunina: Tampa’s picking Russian players every year. They picked Alexei Lipanov recently.
Kucherov: Then there is a good scout in Russia. Lipanov is great, but Volkov is, too. I hope that they will get a chance to play in the NHL next season. I watch how they’re playing in the AHL. When some players coming to Tampa from the AHL and we’re discussing games, I’m always asking, “How are the Russians?”.
Trunina: Are you going to watch the Olympic Games?
Kucherov: I’ve heard it will be broadcast at night. If I’ll have some time, I’m gonna root for our guys. I wish them all the best.
Trunina: Some players were banned from the Olympics. Plotnikov, Belov…
Kucherov: I feel sorry for them. That was a big chance to play there. I don’t really know why they were banned. What else can you say?
Trunina: What did you feel after Gary Bettman’s words about you in the opening of All-Star game?
Kucherov: What did he say?
Trunina: That he’s impressed with your progress.
Kucherov: I met him. We shook hands and took a photo together. And he said to me, “Keep up the good work”.
Trunina: Was it nice to hear that?
Nikita Kucherov: He didn’t play hockey (Kucherov laughs). He is just the commissioner. It’s nice, of course. But if Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux said it to me, it would be different. Gary Bettman is just Gary Bettman.